An issue that’s front and center in the Missouri U.S. Senate race is the trade war, especially given that agriculture is estimated to be an $88.4 billion industry in the state.
The tariffs have hit commodities such as soybeans, which have dropped in value by 20% since the Trump administration carried out trade sanctions against China.
Various manufacturers in the state have also been hit hard. Mid Continent Nail Corporation in Poplar Bluff has been devastated by a 25% tariff on steel imports. It has slashed 60 temporary jobs, plans to cut 200 more and faces possible closure around Labor Day.
President Trump defended his approach during a speech at the VFW National Headquarters in Kansas City late last month, pleading for the public to “be a little patient” and contending farmers would eventually be “the biggest beneficiary” of his policies.
The very same day his administration announced plans for $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers hurt by trade disputes. Those funds have been a no-show to date although U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said delivery of the aid will begin sometime around Labor Day.
Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley criticizes Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill for not supporting the President’s package that he thinks is effective.
“I think he is right, the President is, to be aiding our farmers who are bearing the brunt of the retaliation,” said Hawley. “I can’t believe Senator McCaskill won’t support an aid package to farmers as they get retaliated against by China in particular.”
Support among Missouri farmers for President Trump’s tariffs varies. Those who’ve appeared with Senator McCaskill at recent campaign stops across the state claim to have been severely hurt, with some saying they’re faced with losing their farms.
Others, such as members of the Missouri Farm Bureau who gathered last Friday to hear presentations from both McCaskill and Hawley, are much more receptive to President Trump’s approach and are willing to wait and see what progress can be made.
McCaskill told the group that agriculture is being hurt unnecessarily by the tariffs while the real problem is a shortage of resources to administer trade laws. “Why aren’t we putting more resources into the enforcement of the laws that exist right now instead of making a calculated decision that agriculture can take the hit,” said McCaskill.
The two-term Senator described how Mid Continent Nail had received a judgment from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) against China for illegally dumping its nails into the American market. She said nails from China began reappearing in the U.S. six months after the ITC took action against the country because U.S. Customs lacked the manpower to provide enforcement.
Hawley credits the Trump administration’s tough talk on trade for forcing the European Union to make concessions and allow more imports of goods such as soybeans from Missouri.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker came to the White House to meet with President Trump last month after Trump threatened to slap a 20% tariff on auto imports. The two agreed to more EU soybean purchases at that time.
The European Commission says U.S. soybeans now account for 37% of their soybean imports, up from just 9% a year ago.
Some sources have said the rise is primarily due to the drop in American soybean prices from the tariffs and merely a symbolic reflection of the talks between Trump and Junker. The increase is also linked to the rising price of soybeans from Brazil.
Hawley thinks President Trump’s tough negotiations with the EU and $12 billion aid package to farmers is a step in the right direction. “The EU deal is progress,” Hawley said. “The aid package to farmers is progress as they are facing retaliation. So, I hope that the administration will keep the pressure up as I think the President is doing and press to get better deals sooner rather than later.”
During a press call with reporters Tuesday, Hawley declined to set a deadline for tangible results from the tariffs.